As the weather turns colder, many people will turn to alternate home heating sources, either because they have no central heating, to supplement central heating, or to keep down their heating fuel costs. Space heaters are a very popular way to do this.
Heating equipment is involved in more than 64,000 home structure fires every year, which cause 540 civilian deaths. Space heaters, whether stationary or portable, account for three-quarters of these deaths.
To keep yourself and your family both warm and safe, follow these simple tips:
- Keep anything that can burn—paper, bedding, clothing or furniture—at least 3 feet away from the heater. Having combustibles too close to heat source is the leading factor contributing to home heating fires.
- Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
- Keep children away from space heaters, especially when they’re wearing night gowns or other loose clothing that can easily catch fire.
- With electrical heaters, make sure the circuit isn’t overloaded. Choose an extension cord the same size or larger than the appliance electrical cord.
- Keep electrical heaters well away from water.
- Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions
Special Tips for Kerosene Heaters
Learn more about space heaters and their safe use from energy.gov.
December is the darkest month. The nights are longest, and in many locations December is also the cloudiest month, making the days seem even shorter. No wonder we jump at the chance to light up the winter holidays. Candles bring a warm glow to the rooms where we gather. Electric lights are used indoors on mantles, doorways and Christmas trees as well outdoors in colorful displays.
Our desire to light the darkness is, unfortunately, a big reason why December is also the peak month for candle fires. And overloaded circuits contribute to electrical fires.
A few simple precautions can help keep the holidays a season of joy.
Prevent Candle Fires
- Put out all candles before everyone leaves the room. Almost one in five home candle fires starts by candles left unattended. A tip from the American Red Cross: Designate one person to walk around your home to make sure all candles (and smoking materials) are extinguished after guests leave.
- Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that might burn. Nearly a quarter of candle fires start when combustible materials are left or came too close to a candle. That includes furniture, bedding, curtains, and decorations.
- Place lighted candles out of reach of children, and remind them that, like matches and lighters, candles are tools for adults only. During the winter holiday season, an average of 40 home fires a day are caused by children playing.
- Be especially vigilant on major holidays, when candles can combine with the distraction of festivities and the activity of many people in your home. The top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Christmas Eve.
Learn more about preventing candle fires.
Prevent Electrical Fires
- Make sure light strings and all electrical decorations are in good condition before you put them up. Don’t use anything with frayed electrical cords.
- Don’t staple or nail through light strings or cords.
- Always unplug tree and holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
- Avoid overloading outlets. Flickering lights, tripped circuit breakers, and blown fuses are warning signs. Don’t ignore them – unplug!
Learn more about preventing electrical fires during the holiday season.
The winter holidays bring together family and friends. Suddenly the size of your household can skyrocket, whether for a few hours or for a few days. Young children, and older adults, may now be part of your household. The company brings warmth, laughter and special memories. It can also introduce hazards you haven’t considered during the year. Take a look at your home through the eyes of your visitors:
- Do you have adequate lighting at the top and bottom of stairs, and sturdy handrails on all stairs? This is something you need year-round, but becomes even more important when you have visitors who are less familiar with your home, especially older relatives who may have vision or mobility challenges.
- What’s on your floors now? Children’s toys, visitors’ shoes, the food dishes of visiting pets—all of these can become tripping hazards. Keep pathways clear.
- Speaking of pets, do your holiday decorations include plants that are poisonous? Most people believe poinsettias are the most dangerous to pets. But according to veterinarians, poinsettias can cause illness but are unlikely to be fatal. Much more dangerous are bulb plants like amaryllis and lilies. Holly and mistletoe are also considered moderately to highly toxic to pets. Learn more about the signs of pet poisoning here.
- What’s on the guest room nightstand? Visitors who are accustomed to leaving their medications in easy reach may need to be gently reminded to keep them out of sight and reach when there are young children around. That could include grandma’s purse if it contains medications.
- If the smoke alarm goes off tonight, would everyone be able to get out? Tell overnight guests about your family’s fire escape plan, including your meeting place, and show them how to open deadbolts or security bars. Guests with mobility challenges may need sleeping areas on the ground floor (Learn more about planning and practicing your home escape at homefiredrill.org)
Learn more about reducing hazards of all kinds at http://prevention1st.org/safety-resources/
Wood stoves and pellet stoves (which burn compressed sawdust) are becoming a popular alternate heating source. They’re believed to cut energy costs and be environmentally friendly. Like all heating equipment, though, they must be used with care. Heating equipment is involved in more than 64,000 home structure fires every year, which cause 540 civilian deaths. If you are heating with a wood or pellet stove:
- Be sure it’s properly installed, complying with manufacturer recommendations and local codes for installation and use. Make sure your stove has at least 36 inches clearance from anything that can burn, and proper floor support.
- Wood stoves should be burned hot twice a day for 15-30 minutes to reduce the amount of creosote buildup.
- Burn only the materials for which your stove is designed. Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.
Remember, wood stoves and pellet stoves are designed for heating. Cooking stoves should never be used for heating.
Learn more about wood and pellet heating, including safe installation and maintenance, from the Department of Energy.
Read about Safer Home Heating: Space Heaters
Halloween frights should be fun, not painful. Avoiding a scary visit to the hospital is simple, but requires some forethought.
Here are the most common reasons kids visit the hospital on Halloween, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and tips for avoiding the trip:
Pedestrian collisions with vehicles
- A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children.
- Use flashlights, and reflective tape on bags and costumes, to be more visible.
- Avoid darting from house to house. Stay on the sidewalk and cross at corners. If there’ s no sidewalk, walk facing traffic.
- If possible, choose hats and nontoxic makeup rather than masks, which can block a child’s vision (and yours if you’re the responsible adult!)
Eye injuries from sharp objects
- Choose soft, flexible props when possible.
- If a costume calls for swords, cane, or sticks, they should not be sharp, or too long (to avoid falls).
Burns from flammable costumes
Make sure costumes, wigs and accessories are made of flame-resistant materials.
- Try a glow stick instead of a candle in jack o’lanterns.
- Keep candlelit jack o’lanterns, and any candles, away from curtains and other flammable objects. Never leave them unattended.